The NSW Southern Highlands is fast becoming Australia’s most popular wellness destination. Local writer Shonagh Walker unearths the best therapies and health and wellness centres in the region.
From equine therapy to float tanks, cryotherapy chambers and infrared saunas, hot yoga and magnesium salt float caves, the NSW Southern Highlands is emerging as one of Australia’s most popular wellness destination.
Already renowned for its thriving food and wine scene, the region, which is located only 90 minutes from Sydney and approximately two hours from Canberra, has seen a surge in health, wellness and self-care since the 2019 bushfires and beyond. With the wellness scene growing quickly throughout Covid, this lush, rambling region has become home to some of the best alternative therapies available.
Just as each hamlet in the Highlands boasts its own unique flavour and style, so too, the wellness therapies on offer vary widely to relieve your every stress and melt (or freeze) it right away.
For those who like their wellness hot, Teysha Yoga offers various classes, from the high-intensity Inferno Hot Pilates (expect to see results fast), to the more calming Yin class, which works into the deeper layers of the connective tissues, offering a mighty good stretch.
Then there’s your classic hot yoga, featuring breathing exercises and a series of 26 postures, which works each muscle of the body and delivers a doozie of a detox. The heat in Teysha’s studio radiates from a sophisticated infrared system that penetrates the muscle, ultimately allowing for a safer, deeper stretch and detoxification.
Situated directly below Teysha Hot Yoga, Revitalize Cryotherapy conversely relies on sub-zero temperatures to get your healing happening. Just three minutes in the Cryo chamber at -130°C helps to flood the entire body with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. This helps to heal injuries and support wellness, ease chronic pain and arthritis, alleviate muscle soreness and joint pain and support weight loss. It also elevates the mood and clears the mind. When teamed with the infrared sauna on the premises (try the Fire and Ice treatment), it creates a yin-yang style of healing and wellness that works on all aspects of your mental, emotional, and physical being. You’ll leave feeling a sense of elation you never thought possible from a wellness clinic.
The Eco Shop
Located next to Revitalize Cryotherapy, this is a treasure trove of supplements, tonics, protein powders, alternative health elixirs, homeopathy, eco-cleaning products, skincare and more. Some say it heralded the start of the wellness movement in Southern Highlands in 1985, when owner/operators Jonathan and Sumi Solomon opened The Eco Shop.
Wellness trends come and go but Johnathan is firm on one thing – that fitness and immune health will remain the leading trend globally, moving forward. “Since the lockdown, increasing numbers of people have truly realised the value of healthy living.”
Balance by Design
The Balance by Design yoga, pilates and gyrotonic studio, tucked away in a leafy lane behind Mittagong’s café strip, offers an out-of-the-box system of exercise that combines movement principles from yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and t’ai chi. Clients are encouraged to keep and use myriad modalities in their movement toolbox – from breathing, rehabilitation, functional movements, weight and resistance training, individualised injury recovery exercises, self-care and nurturing, concentration, coordination, balancing practices, and mindfulness.
Heart Spring Water
This family run business almost single handedly keeps the Southern Highlands hydrated, with its pure, naturally filtered spring water that bubbles up from deep beneath the pristine ground in a secret location in Burrawang. The ever-flowing spring is protected from pollutants by a giant canopy of rainforest and the water is energised to ensure molecular stability prior to bottling. This is further enhanced by storing the water in darkness (sunlight is known to turn water stale). Owner/operator Chris Cloran also draws on Dr Masura Emoto’s philosophies when storing and delivering the water, incorporating crystals, and ensuring it is handled at every touch point to keep ultimate stability and taste. Heart Spring also distributes ENKI Pure Sparkling water, which you will find in wellness centres and cafes around the Highlands. Also sourced from the pure earth in the region, the brand recently garnered the Silver Medal in the Low Carbonation Category at the Fine Waters 2021 Taste and Design Awards.
This natural, vegan, and organic company boasts a beauty store on Bong Bong Street and an all-vegan eatery – Bare, Bites and Brews. Cant-live-without cosmetics include Donna’s signature Solid Organic Perfume and her Himalayan Pink Salt Body Bar, while the rotating raw, vegan menu at the eatery frequently sees people queuing around the block.
As you step inside the newly opened City Cave, you feel as though someone has lifted a backpack full of bricks from your shoulders. Dimly lit, with an aqua-hued theme throughout, the aroma of essential oils subtly seeps throughout the space. The Himalayan Pink Salt wall is both a standout and calming feature in the Relaxation Lounge, where you sit until you’re ready to be taken into your ‘cave’ for your float.
Your cave features a magnesium-infused pool that is heated to your body temperature and infused with 400 kilograms of magnesium salts, allowing you to reach a near zero-gravity state. Sound-proofed walls ensure complete silence, or you can opt for chill/spa music, during your float. You’ll drift into a meditative state, which purports to reduce pain, improve sleep, and enhance creativity. While that in itself sounds indulgent enough, you can (and should) team your time in the cave with an infrared sauna, colour therapy and full body massage.
Mim Biem Naturopathy
Noted as one of Australia’s leading naturopaths, Mim Biem has been known as a leader in her craft for over 35 years. In fact, in 2017, she was honoured with the worldwide coveted ‘Bioceuticals Excellence in Practice’ Award. Mim’s thriving practice sees her healing folk from the Highlands, around Australia as well as globally. A senior lecturer at various Naturopathic colleges, Mim dives deeply into the influence of breathing over our health and is one of the world’s foremost breathing educators, assisting people in overcoming conditions including asthma, sleep apnoea, snoring, anxiety, reflux, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In 2015, she was awarded a fellowship of the Buteyko Practitioners International. Buteyko breathing is essentially ‘breathing bootcamp’, retraining your brain so you adapt to functional breathing and improve your health.
Lesley McPherson Psychotherapist
Lesley McPherson holds a master’s degree in Gestalt Psychotherapy and uses the Enneagram to support self-discovery and healing. The Enneagram offers a framework for personality profiling, showing how we view the world from nine different perspectives.
Lesley holds several esteemed accreditations and specialises in managing life transitions, supporting effective relationships and cancer support. She is also a two-times cancer survivor, so doesn’t just talk the walk, she has travelled the journey, come home, and gone back again. Lesley also supports clients through grief and bereavement, depression and anxiety and workplace crisis or conflict.
Spring of Life Therapy
Spring of Life Therapy, otherwise known as SOL, this Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic bases its therapies on ancient philosophies that aim to keep the body and the universe balance – all treatments aim for the ultimate ying-yang. SOL recognises TCM as a complementary healing modality and incorporates it into other therapies including acupuncture, massage and cupping as well as breathing therapy, weight loss, reflexology, therapeutic support, and facial rejuvenation.
Eureka Horse Wisdom
Owned and run by accredited counsellor, Equine Reiki counsellor and therapist Soo Woods, Eureka Horse Wisdom helps clients heal through divorce, grief, and loss, eating disorders, single parenting, business ownership, addiction, suicidal ideation, and spirituality.
Using Equine Assisted Therapy, Soo helps her clients facilitate personal growth and develop life skills by interacting with horses.
“Their senses are extremely developed,” explains Soo. “This means they read things about us we may be unaware of and, through their reactions, can help us learn about ourselves and often heal. They can hear our heartbeat and will react to the slightest changes within us… Participants in our programs have to step up to learn. Working with horses creates memories that we can apply to our lives and retain far longer than sitting in ‘just another classroom’.”
Quest For Life Foundation
Renowned healer and author Petrea King opened Quest for Life in 1999. Set on 9 acres of lush gardens, it provides multidisciplinary programs encouraging nutrition and sleep, exercise, and improved communication skills, through the use of emotional regulation strategies, meditation and mindfulness, narrative therapy, and solution-focused brief therapy, amongst others. Petrea’s professional team includes psychologists, counsellors, mental health social workers and psychotherapists. On the physical side, there are massage therapists, yoga teachers and meditation gurus.
Experience Nature Forest Bathing
Also known as Nature Therapy, forest bathing has its roots in Japanese culture and the correct term for it is “Shinrin-yoku”.
“It’s a wonderful way to recharge, connect with nature and regenerate our souls, as the practice involves a series of guided methods to help us relax, become more present and connect with the natural world,” explains Experience Nature founder Amanda Fry.
“This is done through the senses, which are the gateway to joy and pleasure,” says Amanda. “Guests will understand how to master the practise of wellness through immersion in nature. Our heart rates slow, blood pressure decreases, cortisol levels in the blood decline, sympathetic nervous system activity decreases, and parasympathetic nervous system increases.”